Recent figures published last month by the Department for Education (DfE) show that the number of pupils in England’s secondary schools could rise by up to 20% over the next ten years.
The Baby Boom
Largely due to an increase in birth rates since 2002, the 20% rise will equate to more than half a million extra students in the English secondary school system by 2024, with the current figure of just over 2.7 million expected to rise to 3.3 million.
This sharp rise in student numbers comes after several years of decline due to lower birth rates during the 1990s.
Making Space for Surplus Students
The extra influx of pupils will, of course, generate more demand for school places, resources and budgets – all issues that will require careful planning and management. Commenting on the news, however, a spokesman for the DfE told the BBC the last Parliament’s action to double funding for school places to £5bn had successfully created 500,000 new places, and that “a further £7bn has already been committed to create even more places over the next six years”.
So what impact is this steep rise in student numbers likely to have on assessment?
With an extra 547,000 students predicted to enter the system by 2024, how might assessment processes be better designed to reduce the added strain on schools and teachers? In the UK, where pupils are assessed in their millions at GCSE and A-level, and where reform means a move from modular to linear assessment meaning more papers to be marked at once, it’s certainly a pertinent question.
The focus will also extend to the recruitment of additional markers in the UK. As more students sit exams, more markers will be required to assess their performance. Using e-marking alongside online standardisation (the process by which markers are briefed before starting examining) can reduce logistical restrictions, meaning markers can more easily be recruited from all over the UK.
Certainly, as more and more students enter the school system, there will be a renewed need to facilitate optimal infrastructures and processes that support learning and progression – and in today’s digitally enhanced educational environment, the continuing gravitation towards technology shows no sign of abating.